Saturday, April 4, 2009

A new favorite author

I've been gone for the last week (a stay-at-home vacation), so I got the chance to try out some of the authors that have caught my eye in the past. One of the mystery writers I picked up was so good that I ended up reading each book in one sitting.
L. A. Garcia-Roza is a Brazilian writer, and his Inspector Espinosa series is just wonderful. The protagonist reminded me of some classic British detectives, in that he has a poetic soul and an introspective mind that puts him at odds with some of his colleagues (set in Rio de Janerio, the idea of corrupt policemen involved in drugs, prostitution and racketeering is an accepted state of affairs in this series). Unlike Adam Dalgliesh, Espinosa doesn't write poetry; but he does frequent the used bookstores of Rio, picking up translations of great English literature and an entire wall in his apartment is piled high with books. He takes a methodical approach to solving crimes and frequently catches himself daydreaming.
Garcia-Roza takes you inside the mind of all the main characters, and you see their perspectives and emotions playing against the activities of others. The murders are realistic without being too gruesome and there is little if any forensic science involved. The crimes are solved through questioning human nature and gauging motivations, as well as some interesting twists of fate. The character of Rio percolates up through the story without coming off as a travelogue (since the books were originally published in Brazil, the reader was assumed to be somewhat familiar with Rio's atmosphere, just as American readers have an idea - true or false - of New York City). Some kind of romantic and/or sexual relationship crops up in each book, and the descriptions of these encounters are - like the murders - in the middle of the range in terms of graphic detail.
For fans of P.D. James or Martha Grimes, the Inspector Espinosa series spices up solid character development with exotic locales and intricate plots. This is a new addition to my list of favorite mysteries. Start with The Silence of the Rain, then on to December Heat.

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